by Eddie Olczyk
June 6, 2018
Analysis: The Belmont Stakes always is interesting because you get some fresh horses to the Triple Crown series (new shooters), and you also get some who you think can get the mile and one-half distance. My handicapping take always has been that the mile and one-half race really boils down to about a half-mile. Positioning for each rider is all that is achieved in the first seven furlongs to a mile, and then it comes down to which horse is best over the last half-mile of those that are in the proper place. It’s a tough grind for a horse at the final part of the Triple Crown journey. When you hit the bottom of the tank, and believe me I recall that from my playing days, you’d better have something left or have a will to find it if it’s not really there.
Main Contenders: It is JUSTIFY’S Belmont to win or lose. They could have gone around again in the Preakness and nobody was going to get by him. He came out of the race well and has looked great in his training since then by all accounts. I’m not a chalk player, but sometimes you have to take what the races and the toteboard give you. There is some sentiment out there that he’s vulnerable and some handicappers will look to beat him. Six races since February 18 is a factor and a concern. But I trust in Bob Baffert, and his looks in training say “Yes!” If you wind up with 4-5 or 3-5 odds, that’s fair. HOFBURG is the other horse I trust most as he goes out for Hall of Fame Trainer, Mr. Bill Mott. He ran great in the Xpressbet Florida Derby and then didn’t have the cleanest of trips in Kentucky. Those big, sweeping turns at Belmont will hit him right between the eyes. He’s sitting on a big race and will relish the distance. It’s as if the Belmont was his target race from the beginning, especially given his pedigree, patient trainer and late start to his career.
Value Plays: Honestly, I can see anybody running third or fourth below the top pair. I will try to beat the Preakness pursuers, BRAVAZO and TENFOLD, as I don’t trust their performance at Pimlico as much as the margins suggest. I will attack the exacta with focus and use some of that uncertainty below in trying to land a price for the remaining slot in the trifecta.
Wagering Strategy ($100):